RICHMOND – Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett always says a defense can never have too many pass rushers. Soon after the team drafted Florida State’s Brandon Jenkins this past offseason, Halsett said he planned to contrive a way to get the rookie on the field with starting outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan at the same time.
Haslett unveiled his plan last Thursday night, early in the Redskins’ first preseason game. The coach dialed up a formation that featured Orakpo at his usual right outside linebacker spot, Jenkins in Kerrigan’s left outside linebacker spot, and Kerrigan lined up almost in the place of a defensive tackle on the left side of the line, opposite Tennessee’s right guard.
The package yielded the anticipated result. Orakpo came off the edge and caused Titans quarterback Jake Locker to scoot to his right. Jenkins bull rushed the right tackle into the backfield, and Kerrigan got past the guard with a blend of quickness and strength and found himself in the perfect position to wrap Locker up for the sack.
The play served as a sign of things to come for the Redskins, who in practice have worked on that formation, and other similar looks with Kerrigan as a down lineman while Orakpo and Jenkins rush from the edges.
“I really like it,” Kerrigan said. “It’s definitely a change of pace, both for myself, and for the guards and centers that I’m going against, because they’re used to bigger and stronger guys. I’m kind of lighter, and quicker than a lot of the guys they face, so it’s a nice change of a pace and a chance for me to put my hand in the dirt again.”
Blitzing out of a three-point stance is nothing new for Kerrigan, who played as a defensive end in a 4-3 front while at Purdue. Drafted by Washington 16th overall and converted to a linebacker asked to blitz out of a two-point stance, Kerrigan made a relatively smooth transition and last season reached his first Pro Bowl after recording 8.5 sacks.
Although he has returned to his roots in a sense, this new role in the special pass-rushing package presents new challenges for Kerrigan. Both as a defensive end and linebacker, Kerrigan generally rushed off the edge, and only occasionally dips inside to throw off opponent as he works to get into the backfield.
The new role has required Kerrigan to diversify his pass-rushing techniques and mind-set.
“It’s just making sure you’re collapsing the pocket, whether you’re getting a good rush or not, just making sure you’re staying in your rush lane so if one of the ends, or [Stephen] Bowen or Barry [Cofield], or whoever the other tackle is, is having a good rush so the quarterback doesn’t have anywhere to step up into.”
Kerrigan added: “You use your hands just as much, especially inside. But if you don’t get to the quarterback, you want to get off the block and get your hands up because the passes are usually coming in the guard and center area. It worked well in the first game, so we have to keep improving on it.”
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